It would not be too strong to say that I loathe politics. I vote, and have done so since I was first able to at age 19, but mostly without enthusiasm; choosing the least objectionable candidate is gritty, unsatisfactory work. Other than that, I try to ignore politics. Unfortunately, politics does not return the favor, so I occasionally give in to the prodding of my conscience and attempt to articulate a political opinion in a blog post, or write a letter to an elected official, or attend a political meeting.The last is rare indeed, but that's what I did the other night. Our state representative held a health care "town hall meeting." On my list of preferred activities it was somewhat below scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush, but I put on my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and ventured out into the rain anyway. Not without a bit of grumbling under my breath, but this was one of the few candidates in memory who actually impressed me in his campaign—or maybe credit goes to the campaign worker who rang my doorbell; those of you who know me know that it takes someone really special to impress me after starting out on such a wrong foot! Anyway, I decided to go because I can't very well complain about what they're doing to health care if I don't express my opinion, and because I think our representative is a good guy and what a shame it would be if he held a meeting to get people's opinions and no one showed up. I thought I'd at least go and say hi and maybe get to know him better. (More)
I don't expect most of my Loyal Readers to wade through the entirety of Paul Gottfried's Voices Against Progress: What I Learned from Genovese, Lasch, and Bradford at the Front Porch Republic, but I include the link for those of us who were students at the University of Rochester during those times. I find it fascinating to glimpse the political maneuverings that were going on over the heads of mere students. I knew neither Eugene Genovese nor Christopher Lasch; I stayed as much as possible in the science and engineering part of the school, and never set foot in that "hotbed of the New Left, the University of Rochester history department." But everyone had heard of Genovese, whom we usually referred to as Our Resident Commie, and his wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, the Resident Feminist.Of even more interest is how the thoughts and ideals of these people changed over time. I don't regret having avoided the U of R history department in the 1970's, but find myself wishing I had known these folks as friends.
I'm filling out a political survey. My friends can now pick themselves up off the floor, as they know that in our house such things go immediately into the trash without passing Go. Political surveys, from either party, are inane nonesense with loaded questions on the order of, "You certainly don't support our evil opposition's murderous polices, do you?" and of which the true purpose is to solicit contributions. But this survey is different. Oh, it's inane, all right, with all of the above problems. But this survey, which is REGISTERED IN MY NAME ONLY and MUST BE ACCOUNTED FOR, which requires my immedate attention, and which assures me that my answers are important in the battle against the Obama Democrats' aggressive push to expand the federal government into every area of our lives and businesses; this survey from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that is sent only to a select few to represent ALL Republicans living in my voting district because it is cost-prohibitive to send a Survey to every registered Republican in my area; this survey is addressed to me.
It appears to have escaped the attention of the National Republican Senatorial Committee that I've been a registered Democrat for all 38 years of my voting life.Well, I commend them, inane questions or no, for reaching out to the opposition even at the cost of slighting the registered Republicans. I hope they enjoy my answers, which for some questions will indeed sound as if I were "one of them" and for others will leave them scratching their heads. But they're not getting the $11 contribution they ask for "to help cover the cost of tabulating and redistributing my Survey," even though $11 isn't out of line for a days' amusement.
On June 12—tomorrow—Food, Inc. opens. As usual, we'll probably wait for the DVD, but it's definitely one I want to see. Do I really want to hear more about the dangers of our factory farming system? Unfortunately, yes. True, it produces plenteous, apparenly low-cost food—we spend less of our paychecks on food than in any time in our history—but the true costs are hidden, and high. Did you know that 90% of the items in our grocery stores contain some form of corn or soy? That our supply of beef, chicken, potatoes, and many other foods is driven by the fast-food industry? One reason I'm looking forward to the movie is that supposedly it is not entirely a doom and gloom horror flick, but also celebrates the power of the individual to make a difference. We shall see. Thanks to DSTB for the alert.
Here's the official Food, Inc. website, where you can see the trailer.
And a PBS show about the movie.
Not only does North Korea continue to flaunt its testing of nuclear explosives and ballistic missiles, but it has abrogated the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war.
The situation in North Korea, with what appears to be a madman brandishing nuclear bombs, will require more knowledge and wisdom than even President Obama's most ardent supporters can claim for him. Hence the prayers; feel free to join me.
Since its nuclear test Monday, North Korea has issued a stream of harsh rhetoric, even declaring that the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War is null and void.
For every presidential election in recent history (meaning at least the last 30), I have had one overriding concern: the nomination of Supreme Court justices. I was asked once why it would be a problem if President Obama merely replaces retiring liberal justices with more liberals—other than missing the opportunity to "pack" the court to my liking. That's when I realized that I don't want a biased Supreme Court, at least not in the sense my friend was implying. But neither do I want a "balanced" Supreme Court. I want one that will rule based on the Constitution, whether they are for or against me. I don't want the Judiciary taking over the role of the Legislature. If our Justices are chosen based on their positions on particular issues rather than for their position vis–à–vis the Constitution and the Law, I think we have little hope for real justice.
But enough heavy thinking! Mallard Fillmore can make me smile, even about such an important issue.
In the back corners of my "to blog about" list, I finally found In Defense of "The Rich," by Larry Elder. I'd originally bookmarked it because of the facts about charitable giving (see below); I'd remembered, from another source, George W. Bush's impressive record in this matter, but couldn't find it when I needed it in a debate with my brother. This article gave the hard numbers for my hazy memory, but at that point it was but l’esprit de l’escalier, so I filed it under "sometime"...you know.But sometime is now here, and I find that the article has several good points, and complements my previous post, Think You're Rich? Or Poor? (More)
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Let's not do it again. Back in 1976, panic over swine flu led to a mass-vaccination program in which nearly a quarter of the U.S. program received immunizations at a cost of $137 million—followed by millions more the government paid out in damages to victims of vaccine-related Guillain-Barre syndrome. Working in a medical facility at the time, I stood in line and received my free shot and thought no more about it. However, the whole affair is now considered a debacle, a textbook case of governmental over-response to fears of a pandemic, fears that turned out to be unfounded. Let's not do it again.
Panic and misinformation are spreading online, aided and abetted by the mainstream news media, which I know from local hurricane reports are adept at the art of crying wolf, deliberately creating fear because fear keeps people glued to the news reports, no matter how little real information is imparted.
Should the government be aware, alert, and prepared to act if this becomes a true emergency? Certainly. But let the ordinary citizen take reasonable precautions of the kind we should always be taking (handwashing, keeping sick people home), and avoid spreading panic, which is itself a dangerous disease.(Standard legal disclaimer: I am an Ordinary Citizen, not a doctor. If your doctor tells you to panic, don't let me stop you.)
I couldn't have told you anything about Mary Ann Glenon before turning to Wikipedia, except for this: the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican has both principles and courage. The University of Notre Dame, which has apparently forgotten that it is a Catholic University, is planning to bestow an honorary degree upon President Obama, who will be giving the commencement address. Glenon, who had been scheduled to receive the University's Laetare Medal at the same time, demurred. To deflect speculation, her letter of refusal was released to the press and published in First Things. (Hat tip to Patrick Deneen.)
[I am] dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.
When Notre Dame suggested that her acceptance speech might be good for the President to hear, she correctly reminded the university that graduation is a time for honoring the students, not for political debate.
Brava! I am not a Catholic—but courage is courage, and someone needed to remind Notre Dame that being Catholic isn't only about praying for your football team to win.
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
The Internal Revenue Service has released tax statistics for 2006. You can view them yourself, at the IRS site. Having neither the time nor the mental energy to sort it all out, however, I'm glad the tax folks at J.K. Lasser have done the job already, and I'm going to take their word for it. You are welcome to take my word for their word, if you'd like.
How rich—or poor—do you think you are? Are you paying your fair share of taxes? What about the other guy? Forget, for the moment, comparison with the rest of the world—how do you compare with your fellow Americans? Statistics are slippery things, so take these as you will. Bear in mind, also, that the percentages given here are based on the number of income tax filers; anyone who did not file an income tax return for the year 2006 is not counted, and neither is any money made in underground economy. AGI = Adjusted Gross Income, Line 37 on Form 1040. (More)
Three diverse takes on China:Although written nearly a year ago (note the line, "Assuming that the global economy does not decline now, it will at some point"), George Friedman's geopolitical analysis of China (via InvestorsInsight) is perhaps frightening, perhaps reassuring, but certainly fascinating. The concluding summary provides an introduction to the ideas, though it by no means does justice to the long article. (More)
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Thanks to Percival Blakeney Academy for publicising Southern Utah University communicatio major Jeffrey Wilbur's direct and pithy denunciation of restrictive "free speech zones." (Brilliant, even if he did exclude Alaska and Hawaii.)
In light of SUU officials [sic] plan to designate "Free Speech Zones" on campus, I thought I'd offer my assistance. Grab a map. OK, ready?
All right, you see that big area between Canada and Mexico, surrounded by lots of blue ink on the East and West? You see it?
There's your bloody Free Speech Zone.
Once again I wonder why people can't make their points without resorting to offensive language, but as a great deal of blood was spilled to put the First Amendment into effect, perhaps it's appropriate.Unfortunately, free speech—like free markets—can do great damage when not moderated by ethical principles. (Nothing complex required: the Golden Rule would suffice.) Stepping out from under the restrictions of a moral code invites the imposition of far greater—and often irrational—restrictions in response to real, perceived, or potential public harm.
I know—the last thing you need is another blog to read! And the one I’m about to recommend had several authors and consequently great risk of overwhelming your feed reader. Especially since nearly all the posts are thought-provoking and well-written.
The Front Porch Republic is new—the first posts were on March 2 of this year—but has already produced so many shareable articles that it deserves its own post. Treat yourself and subscribe to the Front Porch Republic; they have a Comments RSS feed as well, though I can’t usually keep up with it. A mark of the quality of this blog (and its readers) is that the comments are so far above the “Your a &%$#& moron!” level seen all too often on websites without benefit of sufficient editorial oversight. (More)
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I grew up on orange juice reconstituted from frozen concentrate, but I have since forgiven my parents. It was convenient and inexpensive, and oranges did not grow on our New York State trees. It tasted fine to me, because I didn't know any better. Why I was so ignorant I'm not certain, since every two years we visited relatives in Florida—and this was in the days before a cooling cycle in the weather teamed with developers to destroy most of Central Florida's citrus groves. Perhaps orange juice from concentrate simply tasted better to me because that's what I was accustomed to, much as many children who grow up with Aunt Jemima often prefer the imitation to real maple syrup. Or maybe I simply didn't care enough, but ate what was set before me without giving it much thought.
With maturity came discrimination. When "not-from-concentrate" orange juice appeared in the grocery stores I winced at the price, but never looked back, as it made the frozen concentrate taste like so much flavored sugar water. (Later, when I read John McPhee's marvelous Oranges, I learned that flavored sugar water is a fairly accurate description of the product.) It would be another 20 years before I discovered orange juice that was orders of magnitude better than the best not-from-concentrate available in the grocery stores. (More)